Why Celtic won a watch with appointment of Ange Postecoglou. What now?

Remember how you felt when the news broke that Neil Lennon had been offered the Celtic manager’s job permanently after securing an historic ‘treble treble’ in 2019?

Celtic fought back against Hearts to win 2-1 with an Odsonne Édouard double and history was made. An old fella sitting next to me at Hampden Park had been in Lisbon in 1967, he had been there to experience the fairytale, but the tears rolling down his cheeks showed me more than anything that the magnitude of this modern achievement could not be underestimated.

I was walking up to the Beechwood after the game when I started overhearing the news from fellow fans that Lenny had been given the gig. There was talk of it happening in the Hampden showers. Surely that couldn’t be true? Then a feeling of flatness spread quickly throughout a crowd who should have been in a state of jubilant abandon.

Our quest for eight-in-a-row had been threatened by the sudden departure of Brendan Rodgers midway through a treble-winning campaign, but his temporary replacement was able to galvanise the squad and get us over the line in 2018/19.

Fast forward four years and Lennon is gone, eventually replaced by a man who, until recently, had been hailed as something of a messianic figure by Celtic fans following the team’s resurrection following the nightmarish lock-down loss of ‘The Ten’.

Ange Postecoglou has just led us to a world-record eighth treble, but the mood has once again been dampened at a time when Celtic fans should be bouncing into work all week as champions. Instead, the news that Ange is on his way to the EPL just two days after celebrating his fifth trophy win in six attempts has left an undeniable emotion of anguish. There is a feeling that the wind has been blown out of our sails, just as it had been directly after the treble treble win.

So, where do we go from here?

This has all got me thinking back to the day Celtic’s pursuit of Eddie Howe collapsed – 28 May 2021…

The club made efforts to convince us all that they had tracked another candidate alongside the former Bournemouth gaffer, and that we would now be exploring this alternative option since Eddie had decided not to come to Glasgow.

Meanwhile, Ange Postecoglou had been tracked by AEK Athens, as he confirmed to the Daily Record (16 May 2022):

“AEK was a possibility, almost at the same time as Celtic.

“It was a sliding doors moment. At that time of year, clubs are looking for managers and we got really close.

“They went another way and literally a day after that I got a call from Peter Lawwell.”

Ange confirmed that Lawwell called him the day after AEK “went another way,” which would have been the appointment of Vladan Milojević, who took the job on 27 May 2021. If Celtic’s CEO called Ange the following day, then he called him on the exact day that Eddie Howe knocked Celtic back.

 

Ange got board out of jail

It’s understandable that Celtic’s PR machine would paint a very different picture, but the breakdown of the Eddie Howe deal had left the Parkhead powerbrokers in something of a panic. Lawwell undoubtedly tapped into his City Football Group contacts (his son, Mark, of course, was then Head of CFG’s Scouting and Recruitment) and gave Ange a call. The Australian was appointed 14 days later.

I remember saying that the Celtic board had gambled on the appointment of Ange, but this was more a criticism of their own inability to get their original deal done, not a slight on the incoming boss. The board had been completely ill-prepared when the Howe deal went belly-up, but their big gamble paid off in monument style.

Ange Postecoglou undoubtedly got the Celtic board out of jail, but now that he has thrown his own spanner in the works by agreeing personal terms with Spurs, how will our club react?

Peter Lawwell and Dermot Desmond were captured by TV cameras at the Scottish Cup final on Saturday looking more like Statler and Waldorf than two men watching a generational achievement unfold in front of them. They knew what was about to play out, but will they be able to pull another rabbit out the hat in response to Ange’s inevitable departure?

PAUL JOHN DYKES

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